Dvorak Pros and Cons
Almost everyone I know who's tried Dvorak thinks it's great, and many claim it has changed their life for the better. But your mileage might vary. Here are some factors that might make switching to Dvorak more or less desireable for you.
If you must, you can go back to QWERTY within a fairly short time (possibly days, probably hours, maybe seconds), but you will curse every keystroke you have to type in QWERTY, once you've tried Dvorak!
- Learning: Dvorak is much easier to learn than QWERTY, especially for new typists. Beginning lessons designed for Dvorak can be much more productive (and interesting) because you can type thousands of real words on the home row.
- Speed: With careful training, it seems most QWERTY typists can switch to Dvorak and regain their old speed in about a month. After that, it's all gravy.
Some people have had trouble regaining their old speed. This seems to happen if they don't give up QWERTY entirely while they retrain, or if they train too hard.
If you have to type constantly and can't afford to lose a few weeks' work, I
suggest you put off switching until you can take some time off.
Although many people (including myself) achieve much higher speeds in Dvorak, a few have complained that they still can't type much faster after switching, especially fast QWERTY typists (perhaps 60 or more WPM). Even so, they usually find Dvorak more comfortable.
- Comfort: Dvorak wins this contest hands down. The Dvorak keymap is carefully adapted to the English language. For example, most typing in Dvorak takes place on the home row, so your fingers and hands don't have to move around so much. Dvorak also divides words more evenly between hands, so one hand isn't typing whole words like agree, fact, grass, greater, opinion, regard...
Although Dvorak has alleviated some people's repetitive-stress injury (RSI) symptoms, don't neglect other forms of prevention and treatment. Nothing is a cure-all.
- Accuracy: Most people have trouble typing some letter combinations. In QWERTY, the most frequently mistyped words are short, common, and easy to spell; many are only two or three letters long. Dvorak has typing "demons" too, but they tend to be longer and harder to spell. Only one ("new") is shorter than four letters.
- Compatibility: This is the point on which QWERTY still wins. The people I know who have switched back to QWERTY from Dvorak did so primarily because of this problem. Every popular personal computer that I know of (back to the IBM PC/XT, Apple IIGS, and Amiga at least) can be easily remapped to Dvorak, but there are still some situations when it can be inconvenient, difficult, or even impossible. For example:
- If you move from computer to computer all day.
- If you use a "dumb" video display terminal (VDT) connected to a host. (Using a PC with terminal emulation is usually OK.)
- If you program in un-English languages like Unix shell commands.
- If you depend on software's keyboard commands (as in vi or emacs) that you know by their positions, not their letters.
- If you must use one of the few really shoddy programs that ignore the system keymap, and you don't want or can't find a hard-wired Dvorak keyboard.
These are some complaints I've come across, but I must say I've done quite a bit of programming and computer swapping since I learned Dvorak, and manage to do all right. The only sure-fire show-stopper I know of is having to use a VDT on a system that doesn't support key mapping.
Back to Introducing the Dvorak Keyboard.
Last update: 5 April 1999
Original page established: 3 April 1997
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